PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — After a slow start to the season, Vaughn Taylor is starting to put it all together.
In the past eight days, he’s recorded a rare double eagle, won a Monday qualifier and put himself into contention at the Honda Classic.
On Friday, the Evans resident added 4-under-par 66 to his opening 68 for his best start to a tournament this year. At 6-under, Taylor enters the
weekend two shots off the pace set by Tom Gillis and Justin Rose.
“I didn’t feel too good at the beginning of the year,” Taylor said. “It just took some time to get things going. That’s the way it is. You just have to keep grinding and figuring it out. Once you find it, just run with it.”
Joining Taylor on the first page of the leaderboard is Augusta native Charles Howell, who played the afternoon in windy conditions. He birdied three consecutive holes on the front nine and finished with 67 to move to 5-under.
“I’m very happy about it,” Howell said. “Boy, it wasn’t easy out there today.”
After getting married in December, Taylor took a month off. Then, he opened the season with three missed cuts. He then switched from a belly putter he implemented in October to a regular putter two weeks ago.
After ditching the belly putter, he posted a momentum-building tie for 16th place last week at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
The hole he remembers most is the one where he didn’t need a putter.
In the second round, Taylor faced an approach of 263 yards to the pin at the par-5 seventh hole. He struck a “perfect” 5-wood shot that bounced in the front fringe and rolled right into the cup for double eagle.
“It was awesome,” said Taylor, who figures he’s made four or five holes-in-one as a professional. “A double eagle, I’m not sure you’ll ever make one. It’s pretty cool to make one in a tournament.”
Caddie Trey Keepers witnessed the shot and knew it was good from the fairway. He said about seven people saw the double eagle.
“I turned and looked at him and it was like he was going to attack me,” Keepers said. “I’ve never seen him happier on the course. He said, ‘I’ve never made a double eagle.’ We chest-bumped. It was great.”
Despite the highlight, Taylor still had to work to get into the Honda Classic. With the tour’s reshuffle after Mayakoba, Taylor dropped to No. 27 on the priority list and was not exempt this week. He won the Monday qualifier to earn a tee time.
“It’s not something you want to do,” he said. “But you know, I had to get it done. I felt like I was playing good coming into this week. I really wanted to qualify and give myself another chance.”
Taylor has yet to qualify for the Masters Tournament and hasn’t played in the event since 2008. The home tournament is in the back of his mind, and a win Sunday would get him back to Augusta.
“I just want to play good this weekend and we’ll see what happens,” Taylor said. “The position I’m in, I need to play well to move up in the next reshuffle.”